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US Intelligence Estimate Warns About Iraq's Future - 2004-09-16

A report prepared by the U.S. intelligence community offers a pessimistic outlook for Iraq, including the possibility that the country could drift toward civil war.

A U.S. official, who asked not to be identified, tells VOA the intelligence report warns the prospects for stability in Iraq are not good, and that current trends point toward a continued deterioration of the security situation there. By the end of 2005, the official says, the possibility of full-scale civil war involving Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds cannot be ruled out.

The report was approved by the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and sent earlier this summer to President Bush. While it has not been made public, a story about it appeared in Thursday's New York Times.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says the intelligence assessment really just states the obvious, and he notes there have been many dire predictions about Iraq's future before. The report appears to differ substantially from the upbeat predictions President Bush and top members of his administration have been making about Iraq's future.

Appearing on the NBC television program, Meet the Press on Sunday, Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed confidence the insurgency in Sunni areas of Iraq would end in time for elections set for January. "Our military commanders, working with Iraqi military leaders and the Iraqi interim government, have plans for each one of those areas, to bring them back under government control in time for the election," he said.

However, concern that Iraq could grow increasingly unstable and violent appears to be growing in Congress, including among members of the president's own Republican Party.

Senator Chuck Hagel is upset that billions of dollars allocated for Iraqi reconstruction will have to be spent on security instead. "That does not add up in my opinion to a pretty picture, a picture that shows we are winning. But it does add up to this: acknowledgment that we are in deep trouble," he said.

And Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, a longtime critic of the White House on Iraq, echoed the pessimistic scenario outlined in the intelligence report. "Iraq remains an active war zone, an increasingly active war zone, increasingly active war zone, not diminishing, an increasingly active war zone. The insurgency is growing, it is more lethal," he said.

Members of Congress are likely to ask Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi how he plans to deal with the insurgency when he visits Washington next week. In the meantime, U.S. military officials have warned, Iraq is likely to grow even more violent as the date for January's elections approaches.